Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – April

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Well now that we’re living in the end times/our dystopic nightmares/a peculiar alternate reality, it feels a bit odd to talk about books… and yet we all could’ve guessed that us bookworms were bound to bury our heads in books as things fall apart 😉

I myself have been putting together an end of the world playlist (including: End of the Line, Over and Done With, Thriller etc.) and been bunkering down to read (sod all else to do anyway, since most of my work has been put on hold and most of us are currently under house arrest).

spam jail

In all seriousness, I hope you and your families are all okay, wherever you are in the world ❤ Thankfully everyone I live with is in good health, though I’ve had other issues created by this ongoing crisis, which have taken me away from blogging. So, thanks for all your patience and for continuing to stick with me ❤

Now that the (somewhat unusual) life update is out of the way, let’s get back to the books, shall we?

sea witch

The Sea Witch– this was a decent, if ultimately uninspiring retelling of the Little Mermaid. While I appreciated the use of Danish, giving the story some much needed authenticity, other aspects of the writing were a little colourless. Plus, parts of the story drifted by a little slowly. That said, I did like some of the twists and how it took the story in a darker direction than I anticipated. Yet, I will say that after that one bold turn, it seemed like the ending could have gone to greater depths. Instead, it sort of washed over me and left me wanting. Not a bad book by any means, but not brilliant.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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eat pray love

Eat Pray Love– I often don’t like to talk about memoirs, because it feels too much like critiquing someone else’s life, but I got so much out of this, I thought it was worth sharing. Upbeat and positive, I instantly warmed to the author and was happy to take a globetrotting trip with her! I loved the locations, each offering something different: Italy fattens you up with joy; India gives you the opportunity to open your mind; Bali offers friendship… and more! Admittedly, I didn’t connect with some parts, because I’m not a very spiritual person (despite loving yoga) but I still found reading this was a surprisingly positive experience. More than anything, it fed my wanderlust and makes me ache to travel more… though for now I think we’ll have to be satisfied with books!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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this is how you lose the time war

This is how you lose the time war– the only downside to this compact time travelling story is that it whizzed by so relatively fast, I felt like I didn’t lose any time at all! Despite its length, this was packed with things to love: it had a compelling concept, awesome opening, beautiful writing, wonderful references and heartstopping romance. I heartily recommend giving it a go- whether you like sci fi or not.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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queen of ruin

Queen of Ruin– well it’s never a good sign when you get to the last page I thought “at least it’s over”. I really liked the first instalment in this duology… but unfortunately this didn’t live up to that- either conceptually or in terms of character. It felt like this story was just tacked on to round off all the events of the last book- which, while often the case with YA sequels, was disappointing to say the least. Unlike the Grace and Fury, where I was impressed with the characterisation, this had no character progression. Apparently, the characters had done their developing in the last book, so didn’t need to go anywhere emotionally here. The romance was pretty much sorted at the end of the last book, so it was no surprise how it all resolved here. And all the other plotlines were resolved very quickly (though they took longer here to get going!). The only “new” aspect for this book was characters taking inopportune moments to jump on the occasional soapbox- which I didn’t appreciate. Nothing about this made me buzz with excitement and it left me a little cold.

Rating: 2/5 bananas

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sometimes I lie

Sometimes I Lie– well this was an unusual read. When Alexa Donne mentioned it on her channel, her impression seemed to be “I’m not sure what to make of it”, so I thought I’d read it and see what I made of it… and I think my conclusion is I’m not sure what to make of it! It was well written and twisty and unpredictable. Even if I felt like I got a handle on it at times, the story would turn in the next moment and go in a different direction. I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it- it was a little too dark to say that- but I do think it was a strong and memorable thriller. In the end I settled on…

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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the guest list

The Guest List– I was surprised by how much I liked this. At a remote island off the coast of Ireland, where guests have gathered for a wedding, readers are invited to witness to a murder. Introduced to multiple perspectives, we are given a sense of the bride, the groom and many of the partygoers. As the story progresses, flipping from timelines before and after the murder, it soon becomes apparent that many characters have more than a few reasons to commit a serious crime… and we still don’t know who the victim is yet! Compelling throughout, the tension amps up, until we’re given more than a little slice of satisfaction. This was a masterclass on how to lead a reader on a merry dance. I do pronounce this book a worthy thriller!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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That’s all for now! Have you read any of these? Did you like them? Let me know in the comments!

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed: Does It Stand Up to Public Scrutiny?

so you've been publicly shamedAs you guys may well know, I’m not a fan of call out culture. So, when I heard about the concept of this book, I was happy to perhaps get a more concrete understanding of how it works, why we do it and maybe even how to stop it. Unfortunately, while an interesting read, this wasn’t everything I hoped it would be.

To start with, the opening was a lot like the Ted Talks I’ve seen by the author- discussing Justine Sacco at length and describing how he got into the subject. Not terrible, but not great either. I was quite enjoying some of the stories Ronson collated, so couldn’t complain too much, even as the book branched off into areas I wouldn’t have expected (from gay porn to Nazis).

Then, about a third of the way through, as it started to explore more psychological angles, I started to get more into it- the mention of the Zimbardo Stanford Prison Experiment in particular had my curiosity peaked. However… this ultimately ended up being the book’s biggest weak spot. Because, there was a sensationalised moment in Ronson’s account, where he seemed to be reaching towards “I’ve debunked the whole thing”, when of course he knew, and any barely-brainy reader would know, he had not. This was based on the fact that he got a quote from the worst of the prison guards, who claimed to have been “only acting” and that he thought he was doing something good. Now, of course, aside from it being a well known fact that people lie, as one psychologist responded it doesn’t actually matter to the people you’re torturing if you were acting- the result is the same (hence, this doesn’t prove that the guards were somehow not doing anything bad after all). Ronson then came to the well-trodden conclusion that people often do the worst things when they think they’re in the right (no shit, sherlock). I began to realise that this was not such a serious work of non-fiction after all (it did not help that Ronson tried to amp up the drama by referring to the fact that Zimbardo wasn’t replying to his emails- as if this somehow lent credence to the idea that he was *onto something*- when it was clear Zimbardo was merely too busy to reply to silly enquiries).

I then noticed other ideas that were not explored so well- particularly as it delved into the criminal side of shame. It dawned on me that it was bizarre to have a book exploring faux pas and tasteless jokes on one hand… and plagiarism, fraud, attempted murder and manslaughter on the other! It seems to me that the author didn’t see the value in shame as a motivator for remorse (I’d even go so far as to say these are two very different concepts: one is internal and the other social).

Still, there were some useful ideas in this. Certainly, some of the people doing the shaming thought they were still in the right- even after the public they baited turned on them. His exploration of crowds, though not ground-breaking, was good to include, especially as he mentioned the concept of feedback loops (people getting a positive response, so they keep doing it). It brings me back to an idea I’ve had for a while: we shouldn’t reward the people who do the shaming. I also did appreciate him going into the idea that people don’t actually want apologies- they want destruction- so it is best not to engage.

The ultimate conclusion wasn’t all that inspiring: all of this was leading up to the big reveal that “mortify” comes from the word “mort”, ergo to shame someone is to kill them (a concept I learnt in primary school). So, okay, we shouldn’t shame people… but I hardly needed to read a three-hundred-page book to learn that. The randomness of the stories did not help this book seem as cohesive as it needed too. Personally, I found this a little too inexpert for my taste, too journalistic and a little naïve.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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So, have you read this? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

Night of the Dragon Left Me Starry-Eyed

*Received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review- but the light enthusiasm is all me 😉 *

night of the dragonHappily, I’m returning to the world of Iwagoto today, to talk about the finale in the Shadow of the Fox series. With a strong opening and the promise of plenty of emotional turns to come, I settled down for a night or two of wild reading 😉. Granted, I will admit there was a bit more telling at the start in order to recap the events of the last book, but it didn’t take long for the action to get going.

As with the previous instalments, the characterisation is a massive bright spot in the story. Yumeko is as likeable as ever; Tatsumi is broodingly conflicted. I liked the touch of having Tatsumi have a slightly different tone from the last book, though it was (understandably) a little more distant at times. Both of the main characters undergo serious character development- which I particularly liked in Yumeko’s case. The reveals about her history cut deeper than a samurai sword. Most of all, however, I liked Kagawa’s execution of the slow burn romance, with its ups and downs, giving the narrative hints of darkness and delight.

Once again, the adventure aspect was strong too. Not only was the writing sharp, the action was non-stop and on point. Even better, there was a tricksy ending that I wasn’t quite expecting! Kagawa doesn’t go for the straightforward happily ever after and yet still manages to deliver something sweet- which makes for a very satisfying conclusion to the saga!

Ultimately, while it took me a little longer to get into this book, I can’t fault this series for sheer entertainment, gorgeous characters and transporting me to a fantastic fantasy land. It was a very welcome distraction and I’m tempted to reread the entire thing! 😉

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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So, have you read this series? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

Toy Story 4 Played Fans False

I’ve never shied away from sharing my unpopular opinions, so I figured I might as well go down swinging 😉 Considering this was a massive box office and critical success (and it just won an Oscar for whatever that’s worth) this could very well be my most controversial opinion. And I know a lot of people might think I’ve simply got my old-lady-monkey-knickers in a twist, because it wasn’t the same as the old movies in the franchise and it didn’t live up to my nostalgia-fuelled perceptions of what makes a good Toy Story movie annnnd… you may very well be right. BUT here’s the thing: I don’t just think this failed as a Toy Story movie- I think this failed as a film in general. Which is why you should beware the upcoming *harsh thoughts* and be warned for *scary spoilers lie ahead!*

A lot of you might be wondering why I bothered to watch this in the first place (and, believe me, I’m asking myself the same question now). Truth is, I wasn’t sure I would, but was persuaded- both by an incredibly enthusiastic sister and the fact that Toy Story 3 had exceeded expectations. That had miraculously turned out to be a marvellous movie. For me, it was the perfect way to end the franchise and a beautiful finale for our favourite toys. The message of toys moving on to make more children happy was a very positive one (and doubtless helped me be less of a hoarder 😉). When I heard about Toy Story 4, I wasn’t sure where they could go with it, but the question of “what makes toys sentient” seemed interesting enough…

Only that’s not what the movie was about. Despite all the marketing, the spork supposedly-at-the-centre of the narrative is merely a gimmick. Instead of an interesting next-chapter-of-the-story, what I got was a formless mess of a movie and a miserable-as-hell tale of existential despair. I kid you not. Because this is the story of how Woody loses his sense of purpose, gets really depressed about it, fails to turn things around, then goes off to live a life of meaningless “pleasure” (if you can call lying in wait for random children to toss you around in a park pleasure). If this mirrors the idea of kids going off to college and leaving their parents behind, then the message is… do nothing with your retirement, just drink mimosas till you inevitably die. It feels less like Woody is going off into the sunset and more like he’s being shoved into an old age home.

Weirdly enough, the villains get a happier ending. That’s right- the toy who does the equivalent of ripping out Woody’s kidney gets a sort-of-redemption arc (although I hesitate to call it that, since it’s more of a “you’ve got to understand where I’m coming from and forgive me” arc). I’m sorry, this felt unsatisfying, cos the writers didn’t do the work to justify her redemption. Rewarding the villains for their villainy just felt all wrong.

Now, as many will be keen to point out, there was always darkness in Toy Story movies. Yet this was different- because where there had always been exploration of insecurities and change and hardship, there was always a sense of hope at the end. Toy Story 3 is the best exemplar of this: it left us with the notion that your purpose doesn’t end with a new chapter. That you can find another kid and go on. Here, we get the argument that your life’s goal was meaningless all along, you weren’t all that important to begin with and you may as well just live for yourself until you eventually fall apart.

To me, that goes counter to all the messaging of the franchise. So much of those was about friendship and sacrifice and living for others. Toy Story 4 takes the meaning and wonder and positivity of the originals and spits it out. I know I’m in the minority- nonetheless that leaves a pretty sour taste in my mouth.

And can we just take a moment to talk about how crap the characters are? It’s worse than that most of them get barely any lines and feel sort of neutered- they’re actively unlikeable at times. Bizarrely, the toys main goal seems to be to punish innocent humans and get the dad sent to jail?! Okay- where did that come from? I think they were trying to be funny? I guess?

Don’t worry though, the spork gets a character arc *she says sarcastically*. I mean, if you can call being suicidal and then being cured by a good talking to a character arc. Again, this is played for laughs- it’s not exactly deep. Especially since Woody doesn’t follow his advice.

On the subject of Sporky I’ve also got to say a big, fat WHAT THE HELL?!?! Cos what is wrong with those parents?!?! Why would they encourage her to hug a literal piece of trash at night?!?! It came out of the rubbish and is dirty and disgusting. When the kid falls asleep, you take it away and quietly put it back in the bin!! I’m genuinely concerned about how sanitary the people who made this movie are.

Also, just going to take a moment to get on the Bonnie-hate-train, cos she’s the worst. She was given the most amazing toy in the world, asked to take special care of it… annnnd immediately becomes infatuated with a spork. Ugh.

I know I’m focusing too much on the human characters- but that’s because this movie gives them too big of a role. Unlike all the other movies, which were so focused on the toy’s arcs, most of them don’t really do all that much. Buzz is an idiot; Bo has had a personality transplant; Woody is depressed and doggedly doing illogical things in order for the plot to work; and the rest of the gang may as well not be there.

Personally, there wasn’t a single thing I enjoyed about this movie. I thought the messages were awful and it was yet another Disney cashgrab. I wish they would stop turning (mostly children’s) franchises into nihilistic, humourless “comedies”, but here we are, I guess. Disney just can’t seem to stop raping and pillaging their old movies. I’m gonna try and do my best to turn a blind eye… until the next time I inevitably fall for this trick 😉

Rating: banana peel!

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(which shouldn’t offend the creators, since they think trash is good!)

Dare I ask, have you seen it? Do you think I’m being fair or too harsh? Let me know in the comments!

Facepalming at the Hand on the Wall

hand on the wall

Ahh this book is such wasted potential! As the finale in the Truly Devious series, I had high hopes, but this fell short for me. Let’s investigate what went well and what went wrong.

orangutan mystery

To be fair, this book does offer a satisfying solution to the three-book mystery and there were times when I wanted to high five the author. The Biblical reference of the title was a stroke of genius and I loved how it tied into the plot. And I enjoyed seeing Stevie and the gang again. I was also happy with how the romance turned out, even if it was unnecessarily drawn out and their arguments seemed a little circular.

So, what went wrong?

Well, for starters, there was a whole lot more politics in this book. It was barely noticeable in Truly Devious, started to get on my nerves in Vanishing Stair, yet it was so much worse here. The politics was ratcheted up to such insane levels that it distracted from the main plot- such that I was sure it had to have some baring on the main mystery… but nope- it was just an opportunity to bash Republicans. Plus, it didn’t help that Johnson went for extra woke points and threw the grammar rulebook out the window, using the third person pronoun incorrectly to create a nice muddling effect. Look, I’m never going to be a fan of inserting modern politics in books and I’m a massive fan of correct grammar, so I get it if you want to take my views with a pinch of salt- however it’s my view as a reader that unrelated subplots shouldn’t confuse the audience or take away that much of the limelight from the central story. Granted, not every detail of a narrative has to tie in to the overarching plot, but if you make a big enough deal out of something, then there had better be a damn good reason for it.

Funnily enough, I think an example of a subplot working well with a story was Stevie’s anxiety. Because, again, the tension was executed superbly. It’s just a shame the answers weren’t as exciting as I was hoping. I wasn’t tremendously wowed when I found out who the culprit was- in either case. It was nice to have answers and all, yet I felt the questions posed in previous instalments had been more interesting. The puzzle assembled itself into an acceptable picture, however the little pieces on their own didn’t thrill me: the cause of death for one particular victim was especially lame, the motive in both cases uninspiring and everything a little too neat. I hoped that the mention of a Christie novel would give us something spectacular… but the end result was far less interesting. I did like how the two timelines tied together- it’s just a shame there wasn’t more to it.

Ultimately, I was kind of disappointed by this. Disappointed that it went off track for no reason, disappointed by the incessant bickering of the characters and disappointed by the uninspiring ending. More energy could have been given to the motive and actual story than the unnecessary tangents. Don’t get me wrong: it wasn’t a bad finale, but it could have been better.

Rating: 2½/5 bananas

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So, have you read this series? What did you think of it? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

The Hard Truths of Wild Swans

wild swansThere are few memoirs as lauded as Jung Chang’s Wild Swans- and for good reason. Honest, eye-opening and bold, it tells the stories of three generations of Chinese women, through tyranny and oppression. I admired so many aspects of this book and learnt a great deal from it.

From the start, Chang reveals the culture of fear and insane propaganda, that captured a nation. While it does give a glimpse into the culture and circumstances before communism, I personally took a lot from how the narrative exposes the true horror of communism. What is incredible and unusual about this book is how we get to see both sides of the Cultural Revolution. We get an inside look at the Red Guards and the indoctrination behind their actions- and ultimately see those that fall victim to it.

The constant horror is such that I grew numb to it- but I will try to articulate it as clearly as possible. Books like this make it so we cannot fail to understand the reality of communism. My experience of reading Solzhenitsyn, for instance, already made it clear that starvation is always a by-product of these regimes. This, despite noble goals: “He did not tell anyone until years later when he was ruminating over how differently things had turned out from the dreams of his youth, the main one of which had been putting an end to hunger”. And, like with the Soviet Union (and despite being an entirely different culture), there are the same monstrous results:

“it was widely known that baby killing did go on at the time”

Naturally, communism destroys the most productive people- regardless of class. The people it purports to help are often its first victims. I’ve often contended that communists do not understand the poor- and here there is evidence of that again and again. Sometimes in the mimicry of poverty:

“I put patches on my trousers to look “proletarian””

Other times in the sheer contempt with which the ruling communist class reacts to peasants:

“Peasants have dirty hands and cowshit-sodden feet, but they are much cleaner than intellectuals”

Mostly though, it is in the failure to understand the basic humanity of working-class people and the similarities that exist across social classes- preferring to emphasise difference. There is a ridiculous idea in the Communist Manifesto that working-class people don’t have families- an idea that allows people to view caring about your family under communism to be a “bourgeois habit”. Thus, throughout Wild Swans, family ties are tested to their limit. This is obviously utter hogwash- I shouldn’t have to point this out but here goes: poor people have families too. Now, obviously there are advantages from a communist perspective to disavow the importance of family- because how can you be entirely loyal to a totalitarian regime if you have other (more human) connections? Yet clearly this is also a greater issue of false empathy, a failure to understand the human condition and an inability to see that people of all backgrounds are capable of achieving greatness. But, of course, that is not the goal of communism.

“We want illiterate working people, not educated spiritual aristocrats”

Thus, the greatest irony of all is that the education offered to working class people under communism is “designed to stupefy rather than enlighten”. And thus, arises the idea (which is gaining traction in modern culture) that one must “combat privilege” and atone for one’s education:

“This process appealed to the guilt feelings of the educated; they had been living better than the peasants, and self-criticism tapped into this”

The idea being that education is the enemy. Communism designs a system that keeps poor people down- as much as everyone else. It smashes, but it does not create:

“It was only in persecuting people and in destruction that Mme Mao and the other luminaries of the Cultural Revolution had a chance to “shine”. In construction they had no place.”

Fundamentally, I hold with the Peterson view that a person’s intent is seen in the outcome of their actions. And the outcome of communism is always catastrophe.

Yet it is not just the brutality of the book that I found so significant. There were so many little oddities that made my head spin:

“Think of the starving children in the capitalist world!”

“A famous restaurant called “The Fragrance of Sweet Wind” had its plaque broken to bits. It was renamed “Whiff of Gunpowder””

“In those days, beauty was so despised that my family was sent to this lovely house as a punishment.”

The entire book is packed with such anecdotes: laws that meant people got only twelve days of marriage leave a year, exams made void at random and any number of small, dehumanising humiliations. Worst of all, children were encouraged to betray their parents, such that:

“I can see the thrill some children must have felt at demonstrating their power over adults”

All the natural order is backwards. Reading it is as reading a sci fi about an absurd, alternate reality. And here’s the thing- I have read that book: it’s called 1984. Once again, I am astounded to find how attuned Orwell was- Jung Chang herself “marvelling constantly at how aptly Orwell’s description fitted Mao’s China”. I found this most notable in her description of her father’s interrogation- it reminding me of how they broke Winston’s mind, using the trick of telling someone that they’ve already been betrayed. It is all designed to break the human spirit.

And unfortunately, it is effective in the short term. All these absurdities and evils have a human cost. We can only hope that there will be others to reveal the hard truths of these regimes- as Chang has done.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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So, have you read this book? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – March ON!

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Hello all! I’ve had a bit of an interesting, non-stop, busy month. Unfortunately, I had some computer-related-frustration- which messed with blogging (again! I’m sorry!). Fortunately it’s all resolved now and I also did manage to get round to seeing lots of family and friends and doing plenty of monkeying around…

monkey's tea party

(yes, I have just been waiting for the excuse to draw a monkey’s tea party 😉 )

In terms of reading, February started out even more slumpy, until I picked up the *earth-shattering* Wild Swans (review to come), and got my reading-mojo back! So, let’s get on with the reviews!

recursion

Recursion– I really liked the premise of people suddenly finding they had false memories and it was especially cool to see it presented as a contagious disease. Initially, I was raring to go and got sucked into the distinctive dual perspectives. Now I will admit, I didn’t feel like this momentum carried through the whole book. For me, the middle flagged as (minor spoiler) it lacked tension when I knew that the characters could go back and erase parts of the story. Fortunately, it did get exciting again towards the finale and ended on a beautiful note. Not as good as Dark Matter, but still an enjoyable read.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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the stranger

The Stranger– what an intense and brilliant little book. With a compact style, that captures every detail like a snapshot, Camus’ existential novel simultaneously delivers clarity and is impossible to pin down. On the surface, it allows us to see through the eyes of a man accidentally drawn into a murder. Yet, this doesn’t just present us with a guilty man, but instead shows us a man condemned for his honesty. All of this is delivered with a lightness of touch and a hint of black humour. Uniquely fascinating and refreshingly insightful, it is a short book that packs a punch. I also have to give props to the translator, Sandra Smith, because it was very well done.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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book of atrix wolfe

The Book of Atrix Wolfe– well, I’ve finally done it- I’ve finally caved to the McKillip recommendation (courtesy of Bookstooge, among others) AND I’M SO GLAD I DID!! This is so gosh-darn beautiful. Written with such ease, there’s a magic to this style. This is the best kind of old school fantasy: it has the mythical edge and dreamlike quality I crave. Because of the fairy-tale-feel, there were times that the style felt a little distant, but I’d definitely say McKillip is something special regardless and am looking forward to reading more!

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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winter rose

Winter Rose– obviously I wasn’t content to leave it at just one McKillip book and I was drawn to this almost immediately. An unusual tale, told in a uniquely compelling voice, I was once again lulled by the beauty of McKillip’s writing. More so even than Atrix Wolfe, there was a fairy tale element to the story- yet here it felt like there was less of a fantastical scope and more of a focus on personal stories. I will admit there were some aspects that left my heart panging, which prevented me from giving it all the bananas. Ultimately however, this emotional journey, through a wintry wood, gave me chills.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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what the wind knows

What the Wind Knows– I was instantly intrigued by the concept of this book: a woman travelling back in time to discover her ancestral heritage… as a fan of history, romance and fantasy, it sounded very promising! But, not always having enjoyed genre-benders and being a bit of a stickler for historical accuracy, I did have some trepidation going in. Fortunately, this surpassed all my expectations. Even with the hint of magic, it’s got the historical realism down. Drawing on real life events and people, Harmon guides the reader back into an authentic and believable past. The writing was graceful and captured the Irish setting; the inclusion of Yeats’ extracts really worked to evoke the themes. I definitely felt for the characters throughout and found that everything came together in the end. All in all, well worth the read.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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american royals

American Royals– OMG I knew I was going to have fun with this from the second I heard the concept- but this book can take a bow- cos it was even more royally entertaining than I was expecting! Set in an alternative version of the USA, where instead of a presidency, George Washington became the first king of America, this tells the story of modern-day royals. Think the Crown meets Gossip Girl. From the prologue, it promised to be a juicy read, and it doesn’t let up throughout! In a rompy, fun fashion, this packs in plenty of drama, schemes and romance. I *loved* how authentic the world felt- capturing something of the modern monarchy and American politics. And if all that sounds good to you, I highly recommend picking it up!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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heartstopper 1

heartstopper 2

Heartstopper volumes 1 & 2– well be still my beating heart, this was exceptionally cute. This charming story does exactly what it says on the tin: gives you heart palpitations. The romance was sweet and they were quick reads- so much so that I did think that in both cases there could have been more to the plot- but ultimately, I very much enjoyed them. I also especially liked the links to Radio Silence. And, above all, the artwork was gorgeous!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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wilder girls

Wilder Girls– It’s safe to say I went near wild for this book 😉 The writing was sharp and to the point, stripped down to the essentials in an exquisite way. Reminiscent of Lord of the Flies, rather than a direct retelling, the story presents twisted concepts that turn the girl’s school setting on its head. I loved how the subtle characterisation worked and the relationships build over the pages. Plotwise, it was gripping and thought-provoking, yet something held me back from absolutely loving the ending. I guess I liked revelling in the chaos more than some of the answers 😉 Even so, really recommend this for everyone that’s been missing YA dystopia. And I would like to take a moment to appreciate that gorgeous cover- cos *WOW*!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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So, have you read any of these? What did you think of them? Or do you plan to pick any of them up? Let me know in the comments!